1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Tennant

Margaret Oliphant, in The Literary History of England (1882) 3:199.



William Tennant, a man of education and literary skill who was not so fortunate as Allan [Cunningham], but lived and died a poor schoolmaster, without ever issuing out of his little native sphere. A long poem in the measure of Whistlecraft and Don Juan, but preceding both, the subject of which is Anster Fair and the heroine Maggie Lauder, could scarcely be carried into fame or the general knowledge except by the greatest gifts of genius. And these Tennant certainly did not possess. But his verse has much of the freedom and flow of the greater productions in which the same medium was adopted, and has power enough to make the chance reader regret that it had not a little more — enough at least to raise such a skilled manufacture to something more than merely local fame. Where Tennant got the measure we are not informed. That he should have drawn it direct from Pulci and the Italians seems unlikely; but it is at least remarkable that a form of poetry which was afterwards to become so famous should have first stolen into English in this humble and unnoticed way.